Deeper Skills for Learning Professionals…Part 4

It is fascinating to see what strikes a cord. This series on Skills for Learning Professionals and Knowledge Workers (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) have spiked the old hit-meeter and shown up on Tweets all week. There have been many thoughtful and insightful comments and the other blog posts responding to Tony K’s Big Question have been fabulous. (I keep adding the links at the bottom of Part 1).

Michele MartinToday Michele Martin posted an important amplification to  the “Four Meta Skills” from Part 1. Michele offered the caution around online  homophily. She said I didn’t go far enough with the four and she is very right. She deepened them.

Michele, your observations are so good, I’m pulling in a rather lengthy quote, but I urge everyone to go read Michele’s full post, especially the science references at the start. (Emphasis mine.)

In it she says that scanning, filtering, connecting and sense-making are critical skills.  I agree with this, but think that maybe Nancy didn’t go far enough in thinking about how we develop these skills. She offered a series of excellent questions to ask ourselves in terms of our ability to do things like scan and filter, but they don’t take into account the habits of mind and psychological behaviors we bring to the table in developing these skills.  In light of our tendencies toward homophily and pre-conceived ideas, it would seem there are deeper issues at work that we need to consider:

  • When we are scanning, how do we combat our natural tendency to only “see” information that fits with our preconceived notions of the world? The skill of scanning isn’t just about how well we are able to manage a stream of information. It’s also about our ability to actually SEE information in its raw form.
  • In developing our filtering skills, how do we ensure that we are not filtering out information that doesn’t fit wth our existing concepts and frames? I suspect that many, if not most of us, are likely to apply our filters in a way that shields us from data we may not want to consider. But this is not effective filtering behavior, particularly if we end up filtering out key data that would change our decisions or ideas about how things work.
  • Creating a knowledge network is important, but if we are creatures of homophily, seeking out like-minded connections, then are we really using this skill to its full advantage? How do we make our networks diverse? As I’ve pointed out before, social technology tends to collude in this process of connecting us to like-minded people, for example suggesting friends who share our interests. But how do I ensure that I’m connecting to people who think differently than I do?
  • How do we become capable of objective sense-making based on the actual data that is coming into us, rather than our IDEAS of what the data means? I think that the tendency to interpret information as its coming into our brains is so ingrained we don’t even realize it’s happening. That’s why “beginner’s mind” is an aspiration, rather than something most of us are able to do on a regular basis.

Again, these are not just skills for learning professionals or knowledge workers. They are literacies that most of us need in the “modern” world. Online and offline.

Thanks, Michele! Your other post, Are Knowledge Workers the New Blue Collar Workers, was also terrific. I deeply appreciated that you asked why these skills aren’t getting traction and if some of them will be subsumed by computers.

One thought on “Deeper Skills for Learning Professionals…Part 4”

  1. Wow, Nancy–I wasn’t expecting a full separate post on this! 🙂

    Your posts in this series have been terrific and obviously really got me thinking about some things. I personally struggle with the issues I raised all the time–particularly a tendency to not necessarily SEE raw information. I’ve already interpreted it before it hits my consciousness.

    One thing I thought of after I posted was that I wonder if this issue is worse for bloggers because language is a left-brain activity, so when we’re reading and writing about a topic, we’re already going to be more pre-disposed to the left-brain activities that can cause use to overlay our beliefs and pre-conceived patters onto the information coming into our brains. I have no data to support this, of course, but it makes some intuitive sense to me. And if that’s the case, we really have a double whammy coming into us.

    Thanks again for getting this conversational ball rolling!

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